Lights, camera, action! It is almost time for another budget from the masters of spin and we are all invited to watch the drama unfold. The 2009 federal budget will be one of the most eagerly awaited budgets in years and the key question for me is: why is the Government talking up the need to borrow and spend one moment and then in the next breath, warning us that we all need to share the pain because the Government has to reign in spending?
To get an answer to this question you first need to understand that politicians (of all flavours) have their own form of logical thought: politicians logic. Once you understand this you can start to map out how the Government will deflect any criticism directed towards them and justify big spending, big debt and yet still throw money at certain areas in order to shore up their poll numbers, while at the same time talk about the need for spending cuts. Confused? You ought to be.
If you are not familiar with the concept of politicians logic then I suggest you watch this clip from the very witty BBCTV series Yes Minister.
After watching this clip you can easily see how politicians logic applies to Rudd and Co. Take for example this often rolled out defence of the Government’s economic management: Australia was faced with the fallout from the global financial crisis and thus the government had at act. The alternative was to do nothing and this was not acceptable.
Rudd stressed this point when launching his $42 billion dollar economic stimulus package and said that in terms of dealing with the global economic crisis the choice was between the government doing nothing and letting the free market “let rip”. (you can find the clip where he actually made this point is this article: Kevin Rudd and Criswell: can you spot the difference?) Politicians logic at its finest.
But the Governments simplistic (politicians) logic is quite flawed because Kevin Rudd has said on a number of occasions that the recession in Australia was caused by factors external to Australia. Therefore it logically follows that the solution to Australia’s recession will also be driven by external factors (such as a turnaround in the U.S. and Japanese economies) and therefore perhaps the best course of action in Australia was to simply do as little as possible.
It seems almost surreal now that the Government is talking about Australian’s having to share the budget pain just months after boasting about how much taxpayers money they are going to spend. It becomes even more bizarre when you take into account the billions of dollars that will be used to roll-out the national broadband network when this could have all been left to the private sector. (and thus reduce the burden on the budget)
Already the Government’s pre-budget softening up of the Australian public has started. Wayne Swan has apparently said the budget will be a “very Labor” one…mmm…just like the ones handed down by the NSW Labor Government perhaps? Wow that is so reassuring. He has also taken aim at the former Howard Government for over-spending during the boom years which is a bit rich when they left him a pile of money in the form of a budget surplus.
In any case it is irrelevant now what Howard and Costello did years ago, it is time for Rudd and Swan to finally accept that they are responsible for the managing the economy. The Rudd Government, for better or for worse, is now running the show and they need to stop blaming the former government, Thatcher, Reagan, Neo-liberals, extreme capitalists and evil bankers. But don’t hold you breath waiting for this to happen as I reckon the blame game will be in full swing over the next few weeks.
On the other side of politics Malcolm Turnbull must be wondering what he has to do to lift the fortunes of the Opposition and his own support amongst voters. So far he just does not seem to be connecting with the Australia public and his response to budget will probably be his last chance present himself as a viable alternative to Kevin Rudd. If he fails to dent the Government’s support then I guess he will not be the Opposition Leader in 2010.
The one bright spot in all this is that with the focus on spending cuts, we should avoid another Australia 2020 Summit!